PROVO — Boston College, from the powerful ACC, just out of the Big East, currently ranked No. 22, is favored to defeat BYU today in LaVell Edwards Stadium after a 1:36 p.m. kickoff.
The Eagles' giant defensive lineman Mathias Kiwanuka is supposed to wreak havoc on the Cougar offense, just like he did on opponents a year ago. In a way, expectations of a Kiwanuka show draw parallels to this football game, the opener for both teams.
A Cougar win today would be considered an upset, a David versus Goliath story. Boston College is one of the more consistent programs in college football under coach Tom O'Brien. On the other hand, BYU is breaking in a new head coach (Bronco Mendenhall) and a new offense, and will try to shake off three losing seasons.
The 6-foot-7, 263-pound Kiwanuka, like his Boston College squad, should make his share of plays today. What is unknown is how has Mendenhall improved the Cougars since BYU left Rice-Eccles Stadium last November, days before head coach Gary Crowton resigned?
BYU offensive lineman Jake Kuresa, one of the Cougar players who will face Kiwanuka, isn't backing down and doesn't expect the Cougars to do so either.
"If you let a guy run at you at full speed every play, he's going to be pretty good at it," Kuresa said. "But if you give him a pop in the mouth a few times, he won't know what to expect and it slows his game down."
Kuresa didn't clarify whether he was speaking literally, but the symbolism on game day between the Eagles and Cougars is authentic.
Of the giant Kiwanuka, Kuresa said the Eagle star deserves all his accolades.
"We've seen him on film, we know what he can do," Kuresa said. "We've done all we can do to prepare for him. I'm not worried about what he can do against me or against Eddie Keele, individually. It's more of what all five of us offensive linemen can do to execute our offense against their front seven."
The Cougars could be using two freshmen offensive linemen against Kiwanuka & Co. today. Guards Terence Brown and Dallas Reynolds will see their first career action in today's game.
"I've been there," Kuresa said. "I've been that guy before. I remember the biggest thing was to look at the older guys around me and to climb on their backs and follow their momentum they create. Every time I see them, they know, I tell them to be ready to go. They know they can turn to me for their confidence in their first game."
Kuresa said he would rather play a ranked team than an unranked team.
"It just shows where we are and I'm looking forward to it," he said.
The Cougar defense, nursing athletes in the secondary, expects the Eagles to hit them at every angle. Mendenhall said a key is the Eagles' ability to do play-action passes, if Boston College establishes a run game. From there, the Eagles like to fake handoffs and pass and could have quarterback Quinton Porter do bootleg action to set up big plays.
"Boston College will try and come in and run," BYU senior defensive tackle Manaia Brown said. "I like playing against the run. So let's see what happens."
DOAK WALKER WATCH: Running back Curtis Brown is one of 47 candidates for the 2005 Doak Walker Award, presented to the nation's top rusher. Brown ran for 789 yards and scored six touchdowns last year. He averaged 5.0 yards per carry and was third in the Mountain West Conference with 98.0 rushing yards per game against league teams. He also became only the fourth BYU player to crack the 1,000-yard rushing mark during his sophomore year.
BYU's Luke Staley won the Doak Walker Award in 2001 after racking up 1,582 yards rushing to lead the nation with an average 8.1 yards per carry.
Cougars on TV
No. 22 Boston College at BYU
LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo
Today, 1:30 p.m.
TV: Ch. 4
Radio: KSL 1160 AM